“On the fifth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”
… Middlesex League 3, by Adam Cranston
It has been a pleasure to captain Hammer’s brand new team this year in the Middlesex League. With several new faces at the club, demand for places has never been higher. Indeed, over the first six matches no fewer than 19 players have turned out, 10 of whom joined the club in 2017.
One of the key challenges for the season was our first ever attempt to cram 16 match boards into The Anvil. The brand new boards, sets and digital clocks arrived just in time for the first round, and we managed to squeeze everyone in, albeit with little room to manoeuvre and not much spare furniture! We started to experiment with new room layouts, and eventually managed to get hold of some more chairs and tables from the council. In the second half of the season the club will host fewer of these double-headers, but we’re certainly now better equipped to do so.
On to the chess…
Our first match couldn’t have gone much better – a 6.5-1.5 thrashing of Ealing 2 at home, with not a single loss on the scorecard. Pouya and Dipender won playing their first games for Hammer, and Simon’s debut ended in a hard fought draw against a very experienced opponent.
A week later we played host to Willesden, the strongest team in the league – on paper. An even better performance saw us come out 4.5-3.5 victors, the star of the show this time being John White. He played extremely accurately to clinch a vital draw with the black pieces against the 181-graded county captain.
Had this momentum continued we’d surely now be a favourite for promotion, however match three on a cold rainy night in Harrow was a big disappointment. This time playing the weakest time in the league, a no-show forced us to start 1-0 down, and blunders on several of the other boards only widened the gap. Pouya and Dave picked up the only wins and we went down 5.5-2.5.
We welcomed them back at The Anvil the following week, determined to enact our revenge. Alexander, Charlie and Nadim made their debuts on this occasion, and all scored fine victories! We came out 6.5-1.5 winners, proving there’s something to be said for home advantage!
Our last two games before Christmas were literally too close to call. Firstly, we travelled to Ealing where some dubious tactics lead to defeats on the top boards. Fortunately we were saved by heroic wins from the board 6-8 trio of Ken, Wyatt and Dan. A 4-4 draw.
And finally we welcomed junior team Hendon 5 to The Anvil. This was Ben’s chance to make his debut, and won very comfortably! Again, uncharacteristic blunders on the top boards let us down – the match frustratingly finishing 4-4 again.
So with exactly half of the season remaining, promotion hopes are hanging in the balance. We sit joint top of the table on four match points, alongside our main rivals Willesden and Muswell Hill, but crucially having played an extra game. Hendon could easily mount a late surge, so we’ll need to play some fine chess in the new year to stay in the hunt. Get studying, everyone!!
Last but not least a shout out to our highest flyers – John and Ken – both with 2.5 from 3: